Thursday, January 8, 2015

Me and Thee --

I think that I shall never see
Anything as lovely as me and thee

From our jutting bones to our fat shrouded hips
Our too narrow or chapped or bee stung lips

Our firm round flesh, our sagging jowls
Our sports ability or karaoke howls

Our hair that shines, that frizzes or curls, that hangs lank and colorless or tumbles and whirls
That used to be there or that wafts like thistles
To our body’s odd pops and ratchets, our booms and whistles

Green eyes, blue eyes, brown and black
Fat on the front or fat on the back

Short or tall, wide and narrow
Sturdy bones or those of a sparrow

The newborn, the aged and all in between

The most glorious artwork I've ever seen.





Friday, December 19, 2014

I Ain’t Never Going To Die

Okay, we all want to live longer. Better living is fantastic but longer living is where it is at. Even people who think they don’t change their tunes when the Grim Reaper comes-a-knockin’ at their door. I try to do the right things. I eat legumes and dark leafy greens, I walk or exercise (almost) every day, I am married and have a pet, I wash my hands and keep my environment clean. These should allow me to live my allotted years in a general state of good health. 

I don’t have the oomph though, to do more. I had resigned myself to living out my 80.18 years proscribed by the government’s data (http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa/life-expectancy-white-female) and then bidding this mortal coil farewell and leaving my well regulated and dog hair covered, barely toned yet well-scrubbed and moisturized mortal shell behind... 

But Wait! While I was cruising the internet  this morning I read an article that got me re-enthused about longevity  because I discovered that I can live longer, so much longer that even Methuselah would envy me, just by waking up every morning and being myself!

Ibuprofen is the miracle it seems, and can add up to 15 % to my life span! (Basically 8.2 years) that’s right! I am now looking at 90 almost. Why do I take ibuprofen? Because sadly one’s body starts to break down a bit with use, or no use as the case may be, we are screwed every which way! I have arthritis so I end up taking a giant horse pill at least every three days and sometimes two or three times in one day depending on the weather. I can’t imagine what the numbers will actually be since the longer I live the more my joints will degenerate and the more I will hurt thus forcing me to take more medicine… this might be the snake eating its tail infinite magic of modern medicine. I missed my calling. I should have been a doctor!

The second miracle drug is coffee. Coffee can add up to 15% more to a woman’s life span (http://authoritynutrition.com/how-coffee-makes-you-live-longer/). Hello 98, you are looking fine! I drink a lot of coffee. I drink it mostly because I hate to be cold, it hurts my bones. I take my ibuprofen with my coffee so I figure that is like 15% squared! That being the case I can add 225 YEARS to my age… screw 98, 300 is staring at me in my rear-view mirror. I love mathematics and what you can do with it.


I am not a heavy drinker, and although alcohol is the 3rd miracle drug, with numerous studies saying that drinking the hard stuff will extend your life (http://www.digitaljournal.com/life/health/a-sobering-truth-drinkers-live-longer-than-non-drinkers/article/363956  or http://www.themarysue.com/drinking-makes-you-live-longer/) not one of them gives me a percentage, so I am going to have to make an educated guess.  I don’t see myself aging drinking cold drinks (arthritis) but I do love a wee bit of Irish whiskey or cognac (Oui oui!) in a cup of good hot coffee. I will happily use that concoction to swallow my Ibuprofen which I will need to take a ton of for my 300 plus year old joints. I am going to say, what the heck, an additional 15% can be gained through this practice. Okay mathematics fans… we now have 15% cubed or 3,375 years, plus my original 80.18. 3,455.18 years. Move over Methuselah you old bastard! I have you beat by a pretty good margin, plus I am pain free, hyped up and  more than a bit buzzed to boot.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Seven Sure Signs of Success

I keep seeing lists on line… silly lists like 43 cool things to do with the Elf on the Shelf or 11 pictures of Batman through the ages type of thing. There are the lists that promise to make life better in one way or another, for instance you can find the 10 best cookies, the 7 habits of happy people and the 5 rules to success. There are funny lists too, the 23 worst architectural mistakes, the 15 best church signs, the 18 worst logo design concepts or 50 worst family Christmas photos.  I admit it, I love the lists! I decided I could make a list of my own, the __ ways I knew I was making it in life. I can’t put a number to it yet because I just don’t know how many I might think of!

1.    MY BANK BALANCE HAD NUMBERS IN FRONT OF THE DECIMAL AT THE END OF THE MONTH
I kid you not here. I wasn’t measuring in the thousands or even the hundreds! I was measuring my success by the number of dollars over nil that I had managed to finish my month with. Until you have finished a month with all bills paid and no one starving to death with 12 cents in the bank you simply cannot understand how empowering it feels to see a figure like, say…$7.83 staring at you from that ending balance line on your statement.  Of course, I took that fortune and blew it on gas station red wine and a Hershey bar and a magazine…. A girl’s got to have some fun, right?

2.    MY HOUSE CONTAINED MULTIPLE PAPER PRODUCTS, i.e., PAPER TOWELS AND TOILET PAPER (2 PLY BABY, 2 FREAKING PLY!) AND KLEENEX AND COFFEE FILTERS, TOO!
I can tell you that the cheapest white paper towel, torn in half makes a decent coffee filter for a 12 cup pot, and that the same amount, wetted in the sink, will wipe a babies butt just fine! They work as Kleenex too, as long as you can stand the feeling of sandpaper ripping the skin off the end of your nose! Two ply TP was a miracle unto itself and I have to say I moved up to that amazing creation when I started having multiple months with more than a few cents in my account at the end of the banking cycle. Coffee filters are a whole other story! You can use them to soak up grease under fried foods, to clean your windows and even to blow your nose into, it feeling more like fine grit sandpaper than the cheap paper towels. I won’t say which kid suffered the indignity but I even used them on occasion, wetted in the sink, to wipe a babies butt in a pinch. When my balance started showing double digits, that’s right, numbers like 18 whole dollars at the end of my 30 day banking period I added the most generic nose-blowing material to my shopping list. They were still pretty horrible but had the paper towels beat all to hell. I still feel rich when I see boxes of the good stuff, with lotion no less, in every room of my home.

3.    I COULD CONSIDER A PET
I don’t mean I could have a pet, I had a dog by this point, and two cats, I just mean I could actually consider them. I could take them to the vet once a year. I could buy food with pictures on the labels, not just a white bag with black lettering that said DOG FOOD or CAT FOOD on the front. I had to hit the 3 digit bank balance regularly before I felt okay doing this. By this time I had developed a healthy fear of single ply TP and sand-papery paper products. I was living the good life and wanted to keep it that way!


4.    I COULD EAT AT A RESTAURANT THAT DID NOT HAVE PLASTIC FURNITURE BOLTED TO THE FLOOR AND GARISH PRIMARY COLORS EVERYWHERE I LOOKED
Now don’t get me wrong… fast food was a miracle as far as I was concerned. We never got to have any of course, unless my mother took pity on the kids and treated us to paper wrapped cardboard tasting crap which we all adored and craved intensely since it was as foreign and unreachable to us as, say, platypus steaks or monkey brains. When we regularly hit the double digit ending balance I took the kids about once a month for a terrible yet horribly satisfying greasy tasteless lunch. When I realized that I had finished my current month, and the one before and the one before that with close to 100 dollars (Say what? No way? Money money money I was rich, yeah baby come on!) I decided we would eat at a real restaurant, with dishes, and drinks other than soda and iced tea and actual waitresses that had to be nice to you even if you came in with 4 loud and excited children. At this point the neighborhood’s bar and grill was fine freaking dining and we jumped in with both feet! To have a cold beer, a bagged salad, a frozen piece of fish was deeeee-vine! I knew the food was less than so-so but someone else cooked it, served it, listened to the kids whine about it and cleaned up after us.  The day I could take us all to a decent Mexican restaurant or an Applebees or TGI Friday’s was the day I decided I was happy where I was in life.

5.    I OWNED MORE THAN ONE PAIR OF SHOES
Can I find any words to describe the joy of buying a pair of shoes JUST BECAUSE?  Of actually thinking about what you want instead of just what you need? Of buying shoes because they are sexy or stylish or God forbid trendy? Of course the dog ate the shoes but that isn’t the point! I had options! Along with this goes buying shampoo which has a better selling point than being non acidic and not harmful to your eyes… much, of buying mascara someplace other than the Dollar Tree, of going to Great Clips and getting someone to wash and cut my hair that wasn’t me with kitchen shears in the foggy bathroom mirror while the kids yelled “Mommy where arrrrreeeeeeeeeeeee you? I’m (fill in the blank—lonely, hungry, dirty, bleeding, bored)”

 


6.    I COULD GIVE MONEY TO CHARITY
I absolutely cannot describe to you the joy of giving. For years and years I had been the recipient of other people’s charity. The Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the local food bank and emergency services and Lighthouse ForThe Blind all came to my aid more than once. The Marine Corps provided all of my kid’s Christmas presents one year. The local Fire Department brought food one Thanksgiving. All of these groups helped me when I needed it most. I knew what it felt like to be hungry, to be unable to get the bare minimum for yourself and your children.  I needed this help desperately, and I appreciated it more but I felt so humiliated, so terribly useless accepting it that it haunted me to think about it and kept me up at night. The year I was able to drop a really nice stuffed animal, and a scooter into the Toys for Tots box at the mall was the year I crossed a major hurdle and my perceptions on charity were changed forever. It felt just so damn good to give. To think of a woman, like myself, who was doing everything they could and still couldn’t do enough to make it being able to give her children something real and good and fun for the holiday made me burst into tears. I want to tell her that it really does feel good to give and they shouldn’t worry about it. It is from my heart to hers.

7.    I QUIT WORRYING ABOUT THE END OF THE MONTH BALANCE IN MY BANK ACCOUNT
It hit me a few months ago that I don’t even check that balance line anymore. For years I opened each statement with a knot in my gut, hands shaking and sweating and blew out huge sighs of relief when it was over 0, even if only over by 13 cents. I worried literally about every single dime I spent. If my kids found money on the ground I had to bite my tongue and put my hands in my pockets so I wouldn’t snatch it from them and scream mine mine mine! No more bill collectors call me… I can always pay my mortgage and keep the cable on. I am not afraid to open the mail box, to see the pastel envelopes which announced to the world or at least the entire staff at the post office that I was behind and in danger of losing power, water, gas or worse. I worry about too many things but not about having food on the table or being able to go to the doctor if I need to.

In the end I think you make it when the bare necessities are met with little thought. It doesn’t mean I am touring Europe or buying a new car or dressing in designer clothes. It doesn’t mean I eat caviar or drink champagne and hob nob with the wealthy. It does mean if I want steak I buy steak without wondering if I will still be able to keep the electricity on if I do.






Thursday, September 4, 2014

Main Stream Media ==> Better Late Than Never...

The World Health Organization (WHO) finally did a comprehensive report on suicide and my local paper picked it up. Thank God!

I have been seeing headlines every day for the last month or two claiming that traffic deaths, police shootings, domestic violence, and all have all been decided to be suicides or murder/suicides. This doesn't even cover all of the lost and lonely souls that take their own lives quietly in a way that doesn't bother people during their commute or disrupt their work day.

Having lost my husband of 18 years to suicide in 1994 and my baby boy, my grown little man of 21 years to suicide in 2008, my son's best friend, my pseudo son to suicide this past month I can say with all confidence that this report, these facts and figures give you the shocking reality of the sheer numbers of suicide but cannot even scratch on the surface of the emotionally tossed and ravaged sea the survivors are afloat in.

We need your help! We need your attention! We need caring and giving, NOT shame and scorn and fear. Suicide is not contagious but it is often seen as a solution for other's that might be suffering and are afraid to make their issues known and see no other way out. We need to give them other solutions. We need to be available and open, not turning our backs on those that need it most. We need to have safe, clean well staffed places where people can go and get the help they need instead of leaving them sitting alone in their rooms or looking for answers and peace on the streets with drugs and guns. We need to be able to express our grief at the loss of these loved ones without feeling like we have to lie, to prevaricate, to mumble something, anything acceptable to the general public.

If you are thinking about suicide or are afraid that you might attempt or commit suicide, you can call the national hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) and/or find other sources for help HERE

If you have lost a loved one or friend, co-worker, student, neighbor, ANYONE to suicide you can start getting help HERE

If you think you may have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD (a major cause of and a reaction to suicide of a loved one) you can get information on the disorder and suggestions for dealing with it HERE

Many county health departments and state agencies also have help available, you need to search, or ask a loved one to search them out. Many of these offer low to no cost help including counseling and in and outpatient groups and settings as well as referrals to even more organizations that exist to make suicide a thing of the past.

If you feel that SOMETHING, ANYTHING needs to be done but you are not sure what you alone can do you can donate to the American Foundation  for Suicide Prevention through my team (named after my son), TEAM HENRY ROGER GRAMME HERE or donate directly to the Foundation at afsp.org

For too long I have felt like I was in a pitch black room, banging on locked doors trying to make people hear, to care just a teeny bit. This is the first glimmer of light.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

More Than 38,000 People Commit Suicide in America Every Year

This is a shocking statistic. Men and women of all ages, races, creeds and political belief take their own life every year. People don't discuss it, yet it is as prevalent as breast cancer. There are no inspiring commercials for 3 day walks, no special medical facilities advertising on cable TV, no miracle cures, no breakthroughs in medication. It is a plague that is cloaked in silence and shame. THIS MUST CHANGE.

In 1994 my first husband, William Yves Gramme Sr., took his own life. He was Bi-Polar and had been battling the condition for years when he finally just got too tired of the struggle and ended his life. He left behind four children who loved him and a wife who would have done anything to keep him around roiling about in a sea of confusion and despair.
In 2008, my son, Henry Roger Gramme, succumbed to the same ailment. After fighting for almost six years he found himself in a place he did not think he could escape and also took his own life. He left behind a devastated mother, step-father and 3 siblings who loved him dearly.
William Y. Gramme Sr. and Henry R. Gramme, 1987

Both of these incidents tore my family to shreds, leaving lasting scars and issues which will never be resolved. We know we shouldn't but it is hard not to dwell on the Why's of it all, to not blame ourselves for not being able to stop either one of them. We are not alone. 
Bring this out of the darkness, talk, share, open up. if you have lost someone to suicide respect and honor their memory and struggle by telling people about it. Share your stories, it encourages other people to share their's.
Team Henry Roger Gramme will be joining with thousands of people nationwide to walk in the Atlanta Walk, benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and we would appreciate any support that you give for this worthwhile cause.
You can donate to Team Henry Roger Gramme here, or find walks, outreach programs and information and tools for coping at www.AFSP.org

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

At Grandmother’s House


I grew up in a military family. My dad received orders to move us, lock, stock and barrel, every three years like clockwork. Before we moved we made a trek from wherever we were to Louisiana and to Georgia to see our grandparents. These visits were so vastly different, one place and one family and one lifestyle to another that it always made the trip interesting even for a kid that was furious she was leaving her friends (hard won, I am not a social butterfly)  and her school (which I always loved, no matter where it was) and her home (incredibly important, that sense of home) yet again.

We would go to southern Louisiana and eat crawfish, play with deadly animals, listen to good music, smoke Picayune cigarettes down by the river under cover of massive live oaks dripping with moss and generally run free and wild with our cousins. My grandparent’s house was tiny, the cousins were too many to count and the spaces outdoors so inviting and untamed as to make staying indoors a ridiculous notion. We were wild Indians, little heathens, crazy animals and every other thing people called roving bands of dirty, smiling kids and we loved it.

From there we went to Georgia, to a house not much bigger, also out in the country but so ridiculously different as to slam our headlong rush of gaiety and abandon into a massive stone wall (quarried and built by my father and grandfather’s hands).

While my Louisiana grandfather still worked a bit, my Georgia grandfather had retired literally from his job onto his back porch with his bourbon and Fresca and the Braves on the radio. His goal was to keep us quiet so we didn't bother my grandmother. 

My grandmother liked the concept of children, of having a family who adored her, but the reality of it was too much for her to deal with. Kids were dirty, noisy, always wanting something and in general a pain in the patooty, especially 8 of them at one time. Her furniture was covered in plastic. For me that summed her house up, sterile, stiff, unwelcoming. We stayed outside there; playing in the woods, riding the horses which the grands had ‘liberated’ from a neighbor whom they felt didn't care for them correctly. This fact, that they stole horses, was the only thing that gave me hope that they were more than they seemed which was a cranky inebriated couple of unwilling old folks, doing what societal dictates told them they had to do.

My mother somehow grew into a glorious grandmother. She was always welcoming, inviting, open-minded, loving. Not a single grandchild, and she has a ton of them, would say a bad word about her.  She didn’t cater to them. She certainly knew the word ‘No’, but she loved them. They were always interesting to her. She could talk to them, play with them, and feed them with love. The candy jars were full, the Disney movies beckoned, the badminton net was set up close to the big swing in the yard where she would sit with her children, their parents, and watch the kids be fun and free and wild and happy. She and my father ended up in the cold stone house in Georgia but while they were there it brimmed with emotions, with people, with family history being retold and made anew.

Now that I am a grandmother (Many times over, number 13 is due this fall) I find myself trying to emulate her. I have a candy bowl, which is the first thing the kids and their parents hit when they come over. The Disney movies stand piled haphazardly on the cabinet holding the TV and the video games. Yes, I WILL do Wii dance with them, and try to kick their butt at bowling too! We bought a house with a pool and huge porches out in the country. We both like to swim but our first thought on seeing this place was family memories that last forever can be made here. We encourage the kids to play outside, to run in the woods, to find deer tracks and worms under rocks and bird’s nests in the trees. They can use our computers and read our books and nap in the guest room if they want. These little people mean the world to me.


I can’t help but think how sad it is that my own grandparents didn't get to know my brothers and sisters and I. We were cool kids. Kids are funny and smart and loving and beautiful in form and mind.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Worst Thing For A Person To Do...

The Worst Thing For A Person To Do... is (apparently) watch daytime TV. 

If you want to feel terrible about your homemaking skills, your appearance, your decor, your friends or your family just tune into any one of the shows composed of women speaking to women supposedly in solidarity. Ouch! Makes me wish I was a man and seriously this is new because I pretty much love being a mom and a wife and a career woman.

I was watching (and this is so painful to admit I am hanging my head) the Wendy Williams show yesterday because I was bored with reading, cooking, cleaning and gardening. I was so shocked and offended by just two segments I had to write a letter, something I have NEVER done before and hopefully I will never have to do again as I am once again vowing to never watch day time TV.

Since I felt a bit better after writing it, but still not clean again I decided to post it up here and see what YOU think! Let me know if you agree with me or not. I can take it, I am tough. Enjoy!.

Dear Wendy or Wendy's minion sorting through e-mails,

I am a newly retired individual who tends to avoid daytime TV but was suckered in yesterday when I saw your show was on. I haven't watched it often but I do like it so I settled in with a cup of coffee for what I hoped would be a nice bit of entertainment.

I tuned in right at the beginning of your talk about Amal Alamuddin's appearance, laughingly chatting about how you went through 'hundreds' of photos and the one you had on air was the only normal or decent one. I found this incredibly cruel and catty, and your only justification for this derision seemed to be that she was now engaged to a famous and handsome man. Talk about stabbing a fellow woman in the back, and letting the entire world know that contrary to everything we push on teenagers, appearance really does matter more than anything and people can be demeaned and humiliated if they don't fit the mold. I was surprised, I was ashamed to be a fellow woman just listening to the whole thing. Appalling!

The fact that you followed it up by vilifying a man who is a terrible racist, judging people solely by their physical appearance made it even weirder. At least his rant and cruel remarks were supposedly in the privacy of his personal communications and not on a syndicated TV show.

Honestly in 54 years of life I have never written to a show but damn, this was just too cruel and such an obvious juxtaposition of messages and images that it has stayed in the forefront of my mind and this is the only way to deal with it constructively and banish it to where it belongs, forgotten (hopefully) and a ghost file in my deleted items folder..